For more than 50 years I had been amassing cooking things at my house in Cambridge, Mass. It was packed with hundreds of books, pots, pans, knives and every kind of implement. I also had a full array in the kitchen of our Santa Barbara, Calif., apartment, where my husband Paul and I spent our winters.
Before Paul died, in 1994, we'd agreed we'd eventually end up at Casa Dorinda, the lovely retirement community in Santa Barbara where I live now. Paul had been in a nursing home for five years before he died, so my transition from our dual life to a single one was gradual. It was hard, of course. We'd had such a cooperative marriage. First I'd helped him in his diplomatic work; then he'd helped with my books and television shows. But I decided to go on, to continue with my work, which I love. I also decided it was sensible to make the move on my own, which I did last fall.
I was moving from a sprawling three-story house to a two-room apartment with a lovely little kitchen about the size of a boat galley. After a half-century of collecting things, I had to strip down to the essentials. I'd call that a turning point, wouldn't you?
I gave my Cambridge kitchen to the Smithsonian and most of my culinary books to the Schlesinger Library at Harvard. But I picked out what I really needed, mostly reference works like the Larousse Gastronomique and specialty volumes such as those on Russian and Moroccan cooking. I kept only those I considered serious source materials by able, trustworthy people like Jim Beard--I was very fond of him--Marcella Hazan and Lydia Bastianich. Then, of course, I kept all my own books and those by my French colleague Simone Beck, who died in 1987. They made me think of her and some of our wonderful meals together--like one Christmas dinner at her house in the South of France. We went into Paris to buy foie gras and fresh truffles at Les Halles. We took two big fresh truffles into the train compartment, and they were so pungent they almost suffocated us!
The only utensils I took from Cambridge were my favorite heavy-duty kitchen shears and a couple of little no-stick frying pans I'd been saving for a rainy day--because, you know, they do wear out. They're just the right size to make a hamburger when you're by yourself, or a small crepe. Whatever some people say, I think they're absolutely wonderful. Of course, you don't let professional chefs use them because they are not accustomed to taking care of them properly.
Now that I'm in my new place, I'm still organizing my little kitchen. I didn't really need those 800 knives and 12 frying pans--or tools like my enormous fright knife. It had a blade almost two feet long and great big teeth. On my TV show, people liked to see funny things like that.
With what I've got here, I can do anything I want. In a small kitchen, you make things do double or even triple duty. If you're making two-way duck, let's say, and you don't have a roasting pan, you use a frying pan. If you don't have a quiche pan, you can always manufacture one out of foil or make the pie free-form.
I am sorry I can seat only six people here, but in warm weather I'll entertain in my garden, where I've put in fig, tangerine and apricot trees. I expect I'll have lots of visitors.